What does “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” mean?

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You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7 -Third Commandment).

“In vain” means “iniquity,” “falsehood,” “vanity,” “emptiness.” Reverence is the chief purpose of the third commandment (Psalm 111:9; Eccl. 5:1, 2). Those who serve none but the true God, and serve Him in spirit and in truth, will avoid any careless, irreverent, or unnecessary use of the holy name. The careless use of God’s name denotes a lack of reverence for Him. If our thinking is on a spiritually elevated plane, our words will also be elevated, and will be dictated by what is honest and sincere (Philippians 4:8).

No one reverenced the name of God more strictly than did the Jews, who to this day will not utter it. As a result, no one now knows how it should be pronounced. But in their extreme devotion to the letter of the law the Jews offered God an empty honor. This false zeal did not prevent the tragic mistake of the Jewish nation when they crucified the Son of God (John 1:11; Acts 13:46). This shows that obedience to the letter of the law is not sufficient.

The third commandment also forbids false swearing, or perjury, which has always been considered a serious moral and social offense deserving of the most severe punishment. Jesus said, “But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” (Matthew 5:34-37). Believers will not indulge in profanity.

This commandment applies not only to words we should avoid but to our speech in general (Matt. 12:34–37). The third commandment also condemns empty ceremony and formality in worship (2 Timothy 3:5), and exalts worship in the true spirit of holiness (John 4:24). Jesus said: “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36). Man is responsible for the way in which he uses the power of his tongue.

In His service,

The BibleAsk Team

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